Image Rehearsal Therapy for Nightmares

Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) helps people to change nightmares into less disturbing dreams. The process involves tmp_nightmare12062238060having the person first write the nightmare down in detail. Then they think of changing the dream to a pleasant image. Immediately before going to sleep, they visualize the pleasant scene.

Dreams most often use current day residue, events of the day that may have links back to earlier events in our lives. Visualizing the pleasant scene during the day will make it more likely that we will dream about it. This is especially likely if the positive scene is visualized immediately before going to sleep.

For example, if a person had a repetitive nightmare such as being torn apart by wild wolves, they would be asked to create a more positive and even comforting image. Having the person visualize they are surrounded by loving puppies increases the chance of positive changes in the dream. Basically, seeing repetitive nightmares as a bad habit that can be influenced by changing the images in the dreamer’s mind is helpful.

Post traumatic stress dreams, dreams that show a catastrophic event that is a memory of what actually occurred in real life, can be “dulled” by visualization. I have had some success with having people visualize that the scene happened, but that it is like watching an old and faded movie in the distance with faint sound. I find this procedure has the effect of reducing the challenge of changing a traumatic event that occurred in life. Realistic trauma is often more likely to respond to realistic imagery that “honors” the fact that the event occurred.

☆Getting answers from dreams (dream incubation) is described in chapter 34 of my book at http://www.drstevenfox.com

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